Cruisers Forum
 


Join CruisersForum Today

Reply
 
Thread Tools Rate Thread Display Modes
Old 02-09-2010, 08:16   #1
Mooderator
 
capngeo's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Key West & Sarasota
Boat: Cal 28 "Happy Days"
Posts: 4,211
Images: 12
Send a message via Yahoo to capngeo Send a message via Skype™ to capngeo
Lessons Learned from a Knockdown

Last October, when on a rhumb line from Venice Inlet to Key West in my Cal 28, I got to experience my first knock down.

A buddy and myself were sailing more or less south with about 15kts steadily blowing from dead astern. Sailing on the backs of the swells, wing and wing with a 150 Genny, making 6kts over ground even while towing an 11' Whaler. We kept this course for almost 80 miles of the 150 mile crossing.

About 0200, we changed watch, with my buddy Bill going below for some rest. It was a dark, overcast no moon kind of night, but the wind and waves were about the same as we had all day. With no warning... I MEAN NO WARNING, no lightning, no freshening wind, no slight chill in the air... NOTHING, we caught 60+kts slightly abaft of the port beam (genny was stb).

In an instant, the tip of the mast was under water, every loose item was flying to the lee in the cabin including Bill. The boat in wasn't righting as the genny was full of about 5000 gallons of water! The Mainsail had swung to the lee and was in the drink as well. Unable to release the Genny sheet due to tension, I cut it about 6' from the clew. Well, lemme tell you, a line under that much tension parts explosively when just TOUCHED with a blade and a CAL 28 will right VERY fast once the sail full of water is released!

Bill was just coming up the companionway (well at least he was climbing over the cabinetry that was now the sole) when the boat righted.... he went flying below again. The CAL pointed to the wind all by herself and as we stabilized we found a wildly whipping 150 can be a new hazard all of its own. There was so much tension just from the wind on the unrestrained sail that we parted the roller furling line trying to reef the sail. The mainsail stows in a roller furling boom... same problem!

Bill took the helm as I donned a harness and life jacket to go forward and pull down the Genny. THE HARNESS SAVED MY LIFE as the boat pitched in the now 6' seas on the beam and I got tossed overboard THROUGH the lifelines. Bill was trying to start the engine, but (we found out later) the gunk of 25 years on the bottom of the tank was now in the fuel lines. With just the flapping sails, Bill was able to get her pointed upwind, although making way BACKWARDS. I was able to pull myself over the rail back on deck when the bow dove into a wave. Bill was yelling to cut the sail, but it was too new, and I was too cheap. I "climbed" the sail and pulled it down, but due to the bow shipping so much water, I didn't dare to open the hatch to stuff it below. I always tie off a few hanks of line on the foredeck when offshore, and was able to use them to secure the sail on deck.

Unbeknownst to me, Bill was trying to sheet in the main a bit to get some helm (communication was impossible due to the wind and rain), as I was attempting to toss out a sea anchor. The boat made way, and the sea anchor fouled on the rudder and prop.... not good! I then cut the small line holding the main anchor letting it go as bill slacked the main sheet.. at least we were getting on the same page now.

300' of rode out, the anchor grabbed and we cleated it off..... and it was holding! We climbed the mainsail and lashed it to the boom. The mast was flopping around because the hydraulic backstay tensioner failed. I thought we were going to loose the rig it was so violent! I ran forward and grabbed the spinnaker halyard and brought it back to the stern cleat to make a temporary backstay.

It seemed like days, but only 30 minutes had elapsed, and we were about as tired as two old men can be. With things static for now, we went below to rest and get out of the weather. Mind you, we were anchored in 60 feet of water with 300' of rode, in 6 foot seas.... it was not fun! As the adrenalin subsided, the sea-sickness and pain increased. I looked like I was in a fight with a cheese grater from the non-skid, I had a perfect black & blue line where my back broke the stainless pelican hook on the lifeline, both hands were missing skin from hauling lines and knuckling the non-skid. Bill was black & blue all over from his two flying lessons while below... but nothing was broken on either of us, so I guess all was good for now.

Neither of us were prone to motion sickness in the past, and we both have a LOT of time on the water. The first to go was the potato salad Bill ate when first off watch. I never hurled... but that was only due to an empty stomach!

About a day into the 24/7 roller coaster ride, we tried to call for help, only to discover the antenna on the top of the mast, was shorted due to immersion, and (DUH) the batteries in our EPIRB were long dead. All of the mast mounted nav stuff was dead too. All that was left was the GPS and Navionics app in my iPhone!

To shorten a long story, we were 2 days at anchor trying to effect repairs enough to get back underway. It took an hour to do 5 minutes' work under those conditions, and the exhaustion and dehydration was debilitating. We could not drink more than a few ounces at a time without it coming up.

We used a cable clamp and one of those nylon ratchet cargo straps to secure the backstay. Tied the Bimini that got trashed by the boom back out of the way, and worked to clear the fuel line. About 2200 the second night we had enough repaired that we planned on getting under way at first light the next morning. Up about an hour before daylight, the weather had subsided to a tolerable level, and we actually were able to eat and drink for the first time in 48 hours.

Mother Nature had other plans.... as the sun was coming up, we see ANOTHER squall line! We went below and went back to sleep. We rocked and rolled for an hour, but after the squall, it was beautiful..... TOO beautiful, as in ZERO wind! We fired up the diesel, and about halfway through anchor recovery, it quit, dead, nada, zippo. The Whaler has a 30 horse, so all's good to use it to get the anchor up. We lashed the dink to the side, kicked it in gear and got underway... 55 miles to the sea buoy in KW. The dingy flamed out after about 17 miles, and we had decided to keep the last 5 gallons of gas for the Honda eu2000.

Now 4 days into a 30 hour crossing, we were becalmed, out of fuel, had a cobbled together rig, no electronics, and were STILL 30 miles from the nearest land. The current was pushing us backwards from our destination, so we dropped the hook.....again. About midnight, we felt the slightest rise and fall of the hull, and came topside to find 5kts of wind coming right from our heading. We pulled the anchor by hand, and got underway with a whopping 1kt SOG 45 degrees off our intended course. 24 hours later, we dropped anchor 2 miles off the NW Passage bell..... WE HAD CELL SERVICE!

After waking up a few frantic friends who were about to report us overdue, we bedded down to wait for daylight. The next morning had light and variable winds of 10-15kts... again directly from our intended course! We threw in the towel and called TowBoat/US!

Lessons Learned:
  • Old boats have dirty tanks... have them cleaned!
  • Have redundant electronics and communication systems
  • If you can't see the weather due to clouds at night.... don't fly full sail!
  • Always have safety equipment at hand even in calm weather... INCLUDING gloves, shoes, knee pads & ALWAYS WEAR a KNIFE!
  • Lee boards on shelves WILL NOT contain the contents of said shelf
  • Wear a safety harness at all times on deck
  • Have hand signals worked out in advance in case you cannot be heard from the deck at the helm
  • Never set sail with questionable rigging.... ESPECIALLY often overlooked things like a roller furling line!
  • Check the batteries in your EPIRB/SPOT/Handhelds
  • Carry a LOT more fuel than you think you'll ever need.... AND have at least one extra way of fueling the main engine directly (Bypassing the ENTIRE normal fuel system)
__________________

__________________
Any fool with a big enough checkbook can BUY a boat; it takes a SPECIAL type of fool to build his own! -Capngeo
capngeo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-09-2010, 08:51   #2
Registered User
 
Heikki's Avatar

Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Finland
Boat: Stormwind 40 cutter rigged steel ketch - "Columba Livia"
Posts: 90
Quite a story! There sure was a lot to learn - and better to learn all that on-line than on sea...
__________________

__________________
Heikki is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-09-2010, 09:00   #3
Senior Cruiser
 
rebel heart's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 6,190
Images: 3
Great story! I love the part about being too cheap to cut the new sail away :-)

Full agreement on lessons learned. Toss in a reef at night and get ready. 9/10 you can fly full canvas no problem but man is that 1/10 time going to be bad. Even if it's not a pitchpole thing, the poor guy who went to bed has to get back up.
__________________
rebel heart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-09-2010, 09:03   #4
sitting on the dock of the bay

Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 1,513
Images: 6
Send a message via Yahoo to gonesail
no warning for 60 knot winds?? there's something about 150% genoas that worry me .. especially at night. rather be flying a working jib and going slow.
__________________
sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most.
gonesail is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-09-2010, 09:06   #5
Registered User
 
svrodeorm's Avatar

Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Fr. Poynesia
Boat: Southern Cross 35' Cutter - FrPol & H-boat 26' - Sweden
Posts: 248
Send a message via Skype™ to svrodeorm
wow, quite an experience. congratulations to coming out of it without too much scars (and maybe scares). That's well done and I guess the saying is right....'what doesn't kill you hardens you' or at least teaches/humbles you....


Lots of food for thought there.... how often haven't most of us broken a few of those prudent rules.

from my own experience I definetely agree on reefing down before nightfall in most cases. And I never tend to fly a chute at night. Or maybe I should say almost never Yeah, been breaking all those rules a few times, for sure.

Again thanks for sharing, I think we all need to be reminded of the somewhat small margins we live with at sea.
__________________
svnanna.wordpress.com
Do it today-tomorrow it could be too late!
svrodeorm is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-09-2010, 09:11   #6
Senior Cruiser
 
rebel heart's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 6,190
Images: 3
Quote:
Originally Posted by gonesail View Post
no warning for 60 knot winds??
I might not have believed it either, but I was backpacking in the Sierras a few years ago with my friend (and my dog). We'd been up there for several days, and I've been to the area before.

All of a sudden a howl came through and the wind knocked me down to my knee, my dog fell over, my friend's hat blew a good 50 yards away into a tree, and he ended up falling over too. Then it was gone, like it never happened.

We asked people back home what it might have been. It wasn't a sonic boom, no storms, no nothing. Just really weird.
__________________
rebel heart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-09-2010, 09:24   #7
Moderator Emeritus
 
Ex-Calif's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: May 2007
Location: Singapore
Boat: Maxi 77 - Relax Lah!
Posts: 11,514
Images: 4
Incredible story and I hate to be one of those armchair hindsight kind of guys.

It sounds like a frontal passage. Especially the zero wind post frontal experience.

I hate to ask but did you get a weather brief ahead of time?
__________________
Relax Lah! is For Sale <--- Click
Click--> Custom CF Google Search or CF Rules
You're gonna need a bigger boat... - Martin Brody
Ex-Calif is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-09-2010, 09:29   #8
Moderator
 
Adelie's Avatar

Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: La Ciudad de la Misión Didacus de Alcalá en Alta California, Virreinato de Nueva España
Boat: Cal 20
Posts: 4,635
Does the incident make you question in general the use of roller furling for jib or main offshore or did it just point up specific maintenance items?
__________________
A house is but a boat so poorly built and so firmly run aground no one would think to try and refloat it.
SailboatData
Adelie is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 02-09-2010, 09:42   #9
Registered User
 
svrodeorm's Avatar

Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Fr. Poynesia
Boat: Southern Cross 35' Cutter - FrPol & H-boat 26' - Sweden
Posts: 248
Send a message via Skype™ to svrodeorm
Quote:
Originally Posted by Adelie View Post
Does the incident make you question in general the use of roller furling for jib or main offshore or did it just point up specific maintenance items?

That's an interesting question indeed. I have since long chosen not to have roller furling. That said, on a much bigger boat it would be tempting... but prudent? hmmm, tough call.
__________________
svnanna.wordpress.com
Do it today-tomorrow it could be too late!
svrodeorm is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-09-2010, 10:01   #10
Registered User

Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 3
Incredible and scary scary story.
__________________
SotorMailer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-09-2010, 10:14   #11
Registered User
 
svHyLyte's Avatar

Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Tampa Bay area, USA
Boat: Beneteau First 42
Posts: 3,434
Images: 25
Capngeo--

Hell of a tale but it sounds like you did the best you could under the circumstances. The stretch between Cape Romano and Smith Shoal is just a nasty piece of water. The prevailing winds are easterlys and they drive the squalls that develop over the Evergaldes out to sea once the sun sets and the sea breeze dies off. On our last trip to Key West several yachts ahead and behind us had major problems including a sizable Catalina out of Charlotte Harbor YC that was knocked down a full 90º (she later pulled into Key West with seaweed stuck in her spreaders). During that passage we tracked no fewer than 5 squalls on the radar at one time and were able to avoid all but one that I swear moved to windward to catch us. We only got the edge, but had 40+ knots over the deck at one point.

While your experience was tramatic, you survived and got a heck of an education, eh? Moreover, you still have the boat (and the Cal 28's a peach). Had your EPIRB worked its likely you'd have been picked up but the yacht lost, given the CG will not tow a damaged yacht any longer.

Given our experience with that stretch of water, at this point, unless there is a very good moon, once the sun goes down we always tuck in the first reef and roll the genny up until it can't overlap the shrouds. We also adjust the course so that we don't need a pole to hold the genny in place, even if that means heading off the rhumb line somewhat. Although some might disagree with the practice, we also don't secure the sheets to cleats but keep them in the self tailers with an extra "safety wrap" so they can be spun off the winches in a heart-beat. Lastly, if we are hit, we run off, down wind, to take the load off the headsail so it can be furled entirely. Lastly, we always wear harnesses and keep clipped on to the yacht, even though they can be a pain in the neck and sometimes seem unnecessary.

FWIW I have found the first warning that bad stuff may be coming is the wind suddenly feeling cool. That seems to mean you've only got minutes to act.

N'any case, best wishes for less exciting trips in the future, eh?
__________________
"It is not so much for its beauty that the Sea makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from the waves, that so wonderfully renews a weary spirit."
svHyLyte is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-09-2010, 10:52   #12
Marine Service Provider

Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 1,249
Quote:
Originally Posted by SotorMailer View Post
Incredible and scary scary story.
No kidding! You know, you could have waited a few days to post this?
__________________
off-the-grid is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-09-2010, 10:55   #13
Mooderator
 
capngeo's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Key West & Sarasota
Boat: Cal 28 "Happy Days"
Posts: 4,211
Images: 12
Send a message via Yahoo to capngeo Send a message via Skype™ to capngeo
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ex-Calif View Post
Incredible story and I hate to be one of those armchair hindsight kind of guys.

It sounds like a frontal passage. Especially the zero wind post frontal experience.

I hate to ask but did you get a weather brief ahead of time?
It was indeed a front, but about 24 hours ahead of prediction

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adelie
Does the incident make you question in general the use of roller furling for jib or main offshore or did it just point up specific maintenance items?
Definitely maintenance! I replaced all the soft rigging prior to the trip EXCEPT the endless loop of the roller furlings! I didn't know how to make the end-to-end splice and thought I'd read up on it while underway.. OOps! I can do it now I understand all the pitfalls of roller furling, but single-hand 75% of the time and they make life soooo much easier!


Quote:
Originally Posted by svHyLyte
Although some might disagree with the practice, we also don't secure the sheets to cleats but keep them in the self tailers with an extra "safety wrap" so they can be spun off the winches in a heart-beat
I do as well....... now
__________________
Any fool with a big enough checkbook can BUY a boat; it takes a SPECIAL type of fool to build his own! -Capngeo
capngeo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-09-2010, 12:12   #14
Registered User
 
Surveyor's Avatar

Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Ft. Pierce, FL - Bislig, Philippines - Gladstone QLD
Boat: 1968 Alberg 30 #329
Posts: 451
A very exciting read! Happily no one was seriously injured. All of your lessons learned are the same DOs and DONTs that are harped on over and over in here silly....

__________________
Jim - Bahala na!
http://svcookie.blogspot.com/
KK4GGF
Surveyor is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-09-2010, 12:17   #15
Registered User
 
capn_billl's Avatar

Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Houston,Tx
Boat: Maxum 37'
Posts: 1,587
Quote:
Originally Posted by rebel heart View Post
I might not have believed it either, but I was backpacking in the Sierras a few years ago with my friend (and my dog). We'd been up there for several days, and I've been to the area before.

All of a sudden a howl came through and the wind knocked me down to my knee, my dog fell over, my friend's hat blew a good 50 yards away into a tree, and he ended up falling over too. Then it was gone, like it never happened.

We asked people back home what it might have been. It wasn't a sonic boom, no storms, no nothing. Just really weird.
I have experienced this also, There called microburst. Usually but not always associated with thunderstorm nearby, or other upper atmosphere disturbance. They have been the cause of several aviation disasters.
__________________

__________________
capn_billl is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes Rate This Thread
Rate This Thread:

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Second Sail, and My Lessons Learned BubbleHeadMd Seamanship & Boat Handling 36 21-01-2010 14:01
Class 40 Capsize, North Atlantic - Lessons Learned barnakiel Health, Safety & Related Gear 6 18-01-2010 09:13
An Expensive Weekend! Lessons Learned from Running Aground Beersmith The Sailor's Confessional 31 13-01-2010 16:35
Lessons Learned pjop The Sailor's Confessional 2 08-06-2009 12:17
Lessons Learned, dont leave port without them seanseamour Forum Tech Support & Site Help 4 31-07-2007 15:25



Copyright 2002- Social Knowledge, LLC All Rights Reserved.

All times are GMT -7. The time now is 13:58.


Google+
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Social Knowledge Networks
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

ShowCase vBulletin Plugins by Drive Thru Online, Inc.